Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Lincoln Memorial Was Dedicated

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On this day in 1922 the Lincoln Memorial - which had been designed by Henry Bacon after the Temple of Zeus at Olympia - was dedicated in Washington, DC; the sculptor on the project was Daniel Chester French, and the interior murals were executed by Jules Guerin. The Lincoln Memorial's position offers it sweeping views of both the National Mall and the Potomac River, and it shares the opposite view of the Reflecting Pool from the Washington Monument. Within are engraved the words of the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's second inaugural address.

So much more than merely a monument to the 16th President of the United States, the Lincoln Memorial is also a powerful sigil; it's image appears - pointedly, in my opinion - on the reverse of America's only brown money (the penny*), and at times of crisis Americans** have gone to find solace there, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. Both Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King, Jr. at different times appeared with the soaring pillars and monumental statue of the Great Emancipator behind them to remind their country of the promise of freedom made by him, the same promise which cost Lincoln his life.

Ironically, the memorial to one of the greatest Presidents was dedicated during the Administration of one of the worst - Warren G. Harding - although thankfully he didn't attend the dedication ceremony, which was handled by former President and then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Howard Taft; in the crowd that day was the only surviving child of President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln.

*Not to mention its 21st Century equivalent, the $5 bill.
**Particularly those of the penny-coloured persuasion.

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POPnews - May 30th

[A somewhat smaller version of Tsao Tsing-yuan's Goddess of Democracy lives on in the beautifully landscaped grounds of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, having been erected there by that institution's Alma Mater Society; it was built in honour of the one which temporarily resided in Beijing's Tiananmen Square during the nascent pro-democracy movement which tried to emerge in China in 1989 and which Chinese officials brutally quashed, then spent the next twenty years attempting to expunge from the historical record. Similar replicas exist in Hong Kong's Victoria Park, in Portsmouth Square in San Francisco's Chinatown, on the grounds of the campus of York University in Toronto, at the University of Calgary, at Freedom Park in Arlington, and at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DC.]

1416 - The Council of Constance, called by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund - a supporter of Antipope John XXIII - ordered Jerome of Prague burned at the stake following his trial for heresy. Because that's what Jesus would have done.

1431 - 19-year-old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen.

1434 - At the end of the Hussite Wars, during the Battle of Lipany, Utraquist forces led by Diviš Bořek of Miletínek defeated and almost annihilated the Taborite forces of Prokop the Great. I have no idea what it means, but I just loved typing it...

1536 - England's King Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, who had previously been a lady-in-waiting to his first two wives, the cast-off Katherine of Aragon and the now-headless Anne Boleyn.

1574 - Henri III became King of France following the death of his brother Charles IX.

1635 - Following the Thirty Years' War the Peace of Prague was signed.

1806 - Andrew Jackson (the future 7th President of the United States) killed Charles Dickinson in a duel after he'd accused Jackson's wife Rachel Donelson Robards Jackson of bigamy - an accusation which may, in fact, have been technically accurate. Dickinson was the only man Jackson ever managed to kill, despite his having taken part in 13 duels; he was himself hit in the ribs, but made a speedy recovery and, despite being 39 years old at the time, in fact lived another 40 years.

1814 - At the end of the War of the Sixth Coalition the Treaty of Paris was signed, returning French borders to their 1792 extent, where they were prior to the Napoleonic Wars.

1854 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law, establishing (oddly enough) the US territories of Nebraska and Kansas in addition to repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

1876 - Abd-ul-Aziz, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, was deposed and succeeded by his nephew Murat V.

1883 - A rumor that the Brooklyn Bridge was about to collapse caused a stampede which led to the  trampling deaths of twelve people.

1911 - At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first Indianapolis 500 ended with Ray Harroun in his Marmon Wasp becoming the first winner of the 500-mile auto race.

1914 - The new and then-largest Cunard ocean liner RMS Aquitania - displacing 45,647 tons - sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York City.

1922 - The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated by former President and then-current Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

1948 - A dike along the flooding Columbia River in Oregon broke, obliterating the town of Vanport within minutes; in all fifteen people died and tens of thousands were left homeless.

1953 - New Zealand's Auckland Harbour Bridge was officially opened by Prime Minister Sidney Holland, joining Saint Marys Bay to Northcote.

1971 - The Mariner program's Mariner 9 was launched to map 70% of the surface of Mars, and to study temporal changes in the atmosphere and surface of the planet.

1972 - The Angry Brigade went on trial over a series of 25 bombings throughout Britain.

1989 - The 33-foot high Goddess of Democracy statue was unveiled in Beijing's Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators during a well-publicized series of pro-democracy protests there.
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